Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wasao | わさお [ Movie Review ] ★★

The Pitch

There's enough Japanese movies about dogs to identify it as a genre. From Hachikō to the recent Kinako: Police Dog Dream, it seemed that the Japanese hasn't run out of ideas in making a dog movie and the audience are still lapping it up. this review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

This time round, the focus is on a white Akita who became famous after a traveler's blog about him. Apparently Wasao (which apparently means furry in Japanese) was abandon as a puppy and he traveled on his own for a while. At the coastal town of Ajigasawa in Aomori Prefecture, he was rescued and  raised by the female owner of a grilled squid cafe. The blog post of this "cute & ugly dog" went viral and soon Wasao became the most famous Akita in Japan.

This Busa - Kawaii (Ugly - Cute) canine eventually became a World Heritage special ambassador and now there's a movie about him. I guess it's true that every dog has his day and now the review for Wasao the feature length movie. this review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

The Plot

In the peaceful town of Ajigasawa, the locals witness an unidentified animal, which some claim looked like a lion, whilst others describe its look as more like a bear. It was eating Farm crops and many raised concerns for their children’s safety. This led to a plan for a hunter to terminate it. 

Waiting for Something to happen
With much effort, Setsuko finally got the dog to start eating a little of what she offers him. However, the dog’s temperament puzzles her, he hardly lets anyone near him, and comes and goes as he please. But yet he always seems to cheer up the elderly and the junior high school students who are hard at training for a triathlon tournament. The dog also shows concern for the old dog that Setsuko had taken under her wing. Setsuko realizes that the Akita Inu dog that appeared before her, looked like a lion, and that worried her. She was afraid that it might get mistaken as the bear that’s ruining the farm crops and get shot.

Setsuko extends her love and care to every living thing, and Akira who loves dogs, but is unable to open up as a puppy had led to his mother’s hospitalization, as a result of an accident. 

(Plot Outline taken from Wasao Facebook Page)

The Perspective

After watching this movie, my hunch is that Wasao didn't charmed the Japanese with his dog tale. It was likely that he gained popularity simply because of his ugly cute appearance. Likewise for the movie, there's plenty of close up on the adorable furry creature and scenic shot of Ajigasawa but when it comes to crafting a dog movie out of Wasao's journey, there's not much substance there.

This movie is filled with non essential people and subplots that had nothing to do with Wasao's story. A farmer taking part in the triathlon event so that he could get married, a school girl organizing  her classmate to perform at the Nebutsu Festival while having a crush on her teacher and many more of such subplots that had nothing to do with the dog. These supporting characters and subplots just drag on and on till it felt like the movie title should be changed to The Town Folks of Ajigasawa and Wasao. It's hard to understand why don't they trim away the unnecessary characters and focus on Wasao's struggle instead. this review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

I am going to bite your neck off ... you ungrateful owner!
Even when it comes to the characters and plots that actually mattered to Wasao, it didn't do such a great job in establishing a connection with the audience. Akira the sympathetic boy who "abandon" Wasao was rather annoying.  Even though he is young and understandably worried for his mom, but the picture didn't really gave us a reason that this character deserved Wasao's love and dedication. Likewise for the bonding between Wasao and it's eventual owner, it could have branch out more than what was shown in this movie. this review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

Last but not least, the predictable finale where the boy, the bear and the dog finally met for the standoff. There's no need to do a research on it to know that it's made up for the movie. It's so far fetch and unbelievable that it became a joke to the heroic finale that the movie had been trying to build up. It just eye rolling bad to see who came out unscratched in this bear versus dog fight. this review belongs to filmsblitz at blogspot

What is so special about this Akita dog? I really can't tell from this movie. Beside looking adorable and huggable, there's nothing unique or extraordinary about his exploits. It might appear that the filmmaker knew about that fact and tried to cover it up with focusing on other unimportant characters and subplots. Resulting in a long deary affair seemed to have forgotten about the protagonist.

As a dog movie, it pale to comparison with Hachikō and was actually weaker than Kinako: Police Dog Dream (which is actually quite a weak dog movie).

Not Recommended.

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